John O'Mara
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John O'Mara

Band Alternative Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Not Some Emo Kid"

Portland native John O'Mara has been performing onstage since the tender age of fifteen, and though he won't cop to how many years that is exactly, he's at least a seasoned pro. He's got roots in blues and Celtic folk, punk, grunge and some serious metal bands (complete with totally legit metal hair). He earned his chops playing Portland institutions like Satyricon (back when it was still cool) and traversed the same circles as Portland giants Alice in Chains, Sweaty Nipples and Everclear. His diverse range and experience were apparent in his last project, Fuzz Monkey, which employed synth, electric and acoustic guitars, and a kit drummer to create an amalgamation of 80's-pop and alt-folk.
Though the scope of his catalog of work is diverse, John's sound is far from eclectic. His style has evolved and he composes with focus and drive. He's added a vocoder and a lot more electronic work to his repertoire which, on top of the solid guitar foundation, evoke some of his 80's synthpop influences such as the Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Devo, and The Smiths. They don't dictate his style however, and he doesn't sound like any of them. His lyrics tend to have a dark edge, but there's an inherent sense of humor to it all. John's not some emo kid looking to bum out the audience. He's fun and accessible and well suited to share the stage with almost any other band.

Rebekah Hunt
Portland State Rearguard
2008 - Portland State Rearguard

""I guarantee you'll relish the ride and be jonesing for more""

Deep into the CD, you'll be hearing Angelo Badalamenti influences and what sounds a lot like Gary Lucas and Karen Orsi touches, as well as wedges of Radiohead, but John O'Mara, this disc makes inarguably evident, is a very distinctive cat and threatens to be a remarkable force if he can develop all the killer material here even further. Thus, as I've warned, trash the opening pair of tracks, go right to the third, and let Five Year Mission grab you by the cerebellum and then on into the darksome night—I guarantee you'll relish the ride and be jonesing for more."
-Mark S. Tucker

Full Review at : - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

"8.7 out of 10 "This release is laid out much like a rollercoaster ride""

"I’m just glad that O’Mara decided to go on his music mission and have the chance to get all of the thoughts found in his head out, because he has a lot to say in his song lyrics that will make you take a step back while you ponder them.

Style wise the songs have elements of, alt. rock, electonica, folk, new wave and pop sprinkled throughout them which makes for, an interesting and at times, very unique end sound.

Joining O’Mara as co-producer on the album is Sean Flora, who has worked previously with bands like, The Shins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Franz Ferdinand.

This release is laid out much like a rollercoaster ride, if you can stand the few emotional scary moments found on the musical journey of Five Year Mission, in the end you’ll leave feeling very satisfied."
-Senior Writer C.W. Ross

Full Review at - Indie Music Stop

"3.5 Stars (Out of 5) "John O'Mara was right to quit his day job""

"Five Year Mission proves one thing, John O'Mara was right to quit his day job. The album is very much based in the New Wave style of the 1980's but has enough current Alt-Rock buzz to make it an appealing hybrid of styles. This isn't necessarily an album that's going to do well on traditional radio, but college and internet stations will have a field day with John O'Mara, and the licensing deals can't be far behind. From a listener's standpoint, the album is an excellent find with a few bumps. O'Mara may still be figuring out where he's headed musically, but he's definitely headed in a direction you'll want to follow.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)"

Full review at - Wildy's World

"(3.5 out of 5) "O’Mara’s creation here is extraordinarily different & eclectic""

"John is going away from the norm and saying hello to his own breed of music. That style is a blend of pop/rock/alternative with electronic & 80s elements. All the while, O’Mara is keeping it vibrantly modern while evoking a fun side and then more of a darker cloud emerges. This singer/songwriter from Portland sings with much vocal influence to that of the great David Bowie and even a glimpse of David Byrne of The Talking Heads on Track 2, “Amiss”. "
- Jimmy Rae

Full review at: - SKOPE Entertainment




That good old-fashioned electronic New Wave sensibility returned to pop culture consciousness at the start of the aughties and provided a kind of plastic, ironic soundtrack to a decade mired by recession and a couple of wars. Being a child of the eighties, the music of bands such as THE KILLERS and THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS make all of the sense in the world to me with their eyeliner, echo-y riffs and mannequin-like stances. While these bands may tip their hats (or whatever they tip these days) to the New Wave architects of thirty years ago, there is nothing to suggest that these bands are on some kind of transparent, nostalgic I LOVE THE 80’s trip. The same must be said for the Portland – based singer/songwriter JOHN O’MARA and his latest album FIVE YEAR MISSION. Sure the man may wear a BRIAN ENO inspired influence on his short sleeved shirt but FIVE YEAR MISSION’s appeal goes far beyond mere sound texture. It is O’MARA’s sophisticated and detached sense of pop songcraft that wins the day for anyone longing for that moment in time when BOWIE got together with ENO in Berlin and made some noise. Beautiful noise.

ROCKWIRED spoke with JOHN O’MARA over the phone. Here is how it went.

Portland is famous for its indie-roots rock sound. How easy or difficult is it to get an audience in that kind of environment?
It’s kind of tough. It seems like everyone in Portland is in a band so it tends to be a scene made up of bands watching other bands play. There are some really wonderful clubs in Portland to play such as the DOUG FIR LOUNGE. I think it’s one of the best clubs on the West Coast. It was voted by PLAYBOY MAGAZINE as one of the best clubs on the West Coast as well. The scene in this town is kind of rootsy and I think that is starting to change a little. EXPLODE INTO COLORS was a band that was voted as the Best New Band and they are kind of experimental and psychedelic. As far as anything pop or electronic sounding, there is only a small little niche here.

So how has your music been received despite the milieu?
My music has been better received out of town as opposed to Portland. Portland is a tough nut to crack.

Now that FIVE YEAR MISSION is out there for everyone to hear, how do you feel about the finished product?
I’m very proud of it. It is certainly the best thing that I have ever done. The production is amazing thanks to SEAN FLORA who has got a great list of credits to his name. His expertise really added a lot to the finished product. I think it sounds really polished. I tried to find the best people to work with in terms of production. I couldn’t be happier with it.

What drew you to music in the beginning?
It began for me as a teenager doing musical theater. My father was definitely very musical and it all kind of grew from there. I was something of a drama geek. I studied Theater in college and then rock n roll kind of caught my attention. At that point I just started writing songs and I caught the bug there. Ever since, it has been something that I feel like I have to do.

What artists spoke to you in the beginning?
I think everything that happened during the punk movement of ’77 had really inspired and influenced me. When I say punk, I mean things like THE RAMONES, ELVIS COSTELLO and the stuff that DAVID BOWIE and BRIAN ENO were doing. I’m talking about SCARY MONSTERS and the HEROES era. There was also stuff like THE TALKING HEADS and THE B-52’s. Even the FLYING LIZARDS – I think they only had one record but it was still phenomenal. All of this music happened at a time where it was like anything goes. The boundaries of popular music were really being pushed.

I absolutely agree with you. Especially with that whole CBGB’s era – TALKING HEADS specifically. When I first heard your CD, it was DAVID BYRNE that had come to mind.
I think that is a huge compliment but I think that DAVID BYRNE tends to lean more towards World Music.

Now absolutely! And in some of the later TALKING HEADS stuff.
But the album of theirs that stands out for me the most is FEAR OF MUSIC. I was heavily influenced by that record. It sort of gives you that minor-key-recovering-from-an-acid-trip kind of feel.

I love that album! I love the song HEAVEN!
That was the album that led me down that path to learning more about DAVID BOWIE because BRIAN ENO produced that record. He also worked with ROBERT FRIPP and from that I discovered KING CRIMSON and their albums DISCIPLINE and THREE OF A PERFECT PAIR.

The thing that I’ve noticed about the era that you are drawn to is that if you absolutely everything about either TALKING HEADS or BLONDIE or ENO, you learn so much about everybody else.
Yes. Everything seems so interconnected.

Talk about your first attempts at songwriting. What sort of brought it about?
I think it all came from having a need to create. In college I studied Theater and I felt that part of my duty was to memorize lines but instead I ended up being drawn to playing the guitar and the piano and putting together these little riffs and bits of poetry and thoughts. I was going down this path that I thought spoke more directly to my soul and had all the reason in the world to believe that I would be better at doing this than anything else. The craft of songwriting has been a tremendous learning process for me in terms of how to write a good pop song. There was this conversation that I remember having with SEAN FLORA about how time travels differently for a listener as opposed to the participant in the song. As you are playing music, it’s very easy to play that same song over and over again for ten of fifteen minutes and it will seem as if only a few moments have gone by. As a listener, I’m impressed in hearing how a good songwriter will take you in the space of two minutes. The craft of that is just amazing to me.

Describe working with SEAN FLORA?
SEAN is a great musician and he’s got a tremendous musicality. He’s got a great list of credits behind him. He worked on the last SHINS record as well as THE DECEMBERISTS, FRANZ FERDINAND and THE YEAH, YEAH, YEAH’s. He has a great ear and he and I found as we were working together that we have similar influences. As a producer, I think that he made different choices than I would’ve made which is good. The first record I did was self-produced and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. It’s best to get outside of that fishbowl and work with someone that might make different choices. I learned a lot musically from working on this album with SEAN.

You and SEAN did a large bulk of the instrumentation on this album. Earlier, you had stated that you wanted to find the best people to work with on this album. Who were some of these people?
MORGAN GRACE is one. I think she is one of the best songwriters in Portland and I was really tickled and flattered that she agreed to do the song I SAW YOU with me. That session in particular was really great. JOHN is a drummer that played on a couple of the cuts. He was actually my best friend from high school. Speaking of CBGB’s he was on the East Coast for many years in the early eighties and had played CBGB’s and all of those places. To have him on board for this album was really a lot of fun.

After hearing your music, I think that a lot of it really lends itself well to some sort of visual representation. Any plans for a video or do you have one and I just don’t know about it?
I’ve been thinking about that and I would love to do a video. There is some talk of that but there is nothing concrete at this time. I’ve definitely got some ideas and I know some people in the film industry here in Portland. The ideas are there but I don’t have anything storyboarded.

Describe - if you can describe it - the songwriting process. How does that work for you?
Fundamentally, songwriting is just something that I do. I simply hang out, play music and write riffs. I tend to record everything and from there, I collect little bits and pieces. Another thing that I do is carry a notebook with me wherever I go although I’m not all that organized so I tend to carry around stray bits of paper and receipts and napkins with scribbling on them but lately I’ve started sending myself text messages and collect the bits and pieces later and then use the music part of it to turn these bits and pieces into a song. For the most part, that is how a song comes out but there are times when a song seems to materialize completely. The song BROKEN PART was one of those songs. It sort of came to me in one sitting. I remember hearing PAUL MCCARTNEY talk about that. He said that there are times when he simply channeled the music. So that is how the process works for me.

How easy or difficult is it to get the electronic sound of this album onto the stage in front of a live audience?
Right now it’s just a drummer and myself. I have also incorporated a keyboard player at times but I also use ABLETON LIVE on a laptop and I have an RC-20 so obviously, I sequence things a lot. He benefits of doing that is that we end up being much more flexible and cost effective as a band. I really love incorporating both acoustic and electric drums but the downfall to all o this is that you don’t quite have the energy of a live band. I’d love to have an entire band but with the way that the music industry is going – especially in nightclubs – it’s getting to be hard to pay good musicians.

What would you like a person to come away with after they’ve heard this CD?
It would give me a lot of joy if there was one person out there who enjoyed listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it. If a CD like FIVE YEAR MISSION could be a revelation to just one person, then that would be huge for me. - Rock Wired


"Anything at All" 2001
"Five Year Mission" 2009




Some years after honing his musical chops in the same Portland, Oregon hotspots where giants like Alice in Chains, Sweaty Nipples and Everclear made their marks, singer/songwriter John O’Mara had the sinking feeling he had made the wrong decision to sell out and go the straight route. Listening to Talking Heads’ classic track “Once In A Lifetime,” the multi-talented singer and musician heard David Byrne’s voice telling him he was “letting the days go by.” Coming to a creative crossroads, O’Mara left his tech job and set out on a Five Year Mission—the name of his compelling debut solo album--to bring his explosive mix of alternative/electronic influenced rock (which some have dubbed “post punk” and “post new wave”) to the world.

Every worthwhile musical journey involves a few exciting pitstops. For O’Mara, that was Fuzzmonkey, a duo with a drummer in which he mixed synth with electric and acoustic guitars to create an amalgamation of 80’s-pop and alt-folk. Now on his own, he’s found the perfect, seductive blend of acoustic drums with electronic beats, atmospheric and acoustic guitar with synthetic driving bass and vocoder, all very much in the vein of 80s pop and alt-folk rock. The emotional center is his soulful vocals which have reminded his growing fan base of some of his classic influences like Joy Division, Talking Heads and The Cure.

O’Mara has long equated performing live to a “Zen-like” experience, and building on the audience he cultivated during his year playing out with Fuzzy Monkey, he’s been a popular solo act in Portland at coffeehouses and nightclubs, including stints at hotspots like The Someday Lounge and The Know (whose vibe he compares to that of the classic NYC club CBGB’s). This summer, he’s touring on his own for the first time, performing throughout California, up in Seattle and as far East as Salt Lake City. That’s just the start—true to its title, there are really no limits to the excitement O’Mara plans to generate on his Five Year Mission.

Making it a point to be both sparse and lush, mixing pop sensibilities with the sensitivity of folk traditions, O’Mara is happy to say he’s not some emo kid looking to bum out an audience, but a seasoned pro who’s fun, accessible and well-suited to share the stage with anyone. He tends to write the melodies first and then compose lyrics based on the vibe of the song. A fan of literary giants James Joyce and William S. Burroughs, the singer employs in his lyric writing their unusual technique of taking prose and narrative, cutting it to pieces and rearranging it in an intriguing fashion that requires some thought to fully grasp.

His sensuous, ambient track “Drowning” uses the term as a rich metaphor for the sense of powerlessness we all feel when we fall in love that includes both joy and the fear of getting in over your head. The hypnotic “Happy Hour” reveals the singer as a keen observational songwriter, as he reveals the dark irony that a bunch of cheap drinks isn’t really the key to lifting people’s spirits; it was inspired by imagery of dark bars with velvet wallpaper. On the lighter side, the David Bowie influenced “Satellite Radio” starts out with a dark, martini bar feel and ends up “with bell bottoms and a lightning bolt painted across your face.” The lyrics explore the idea that when you really care about someone, there’s a connection where you can feel what they’re doing from miles away.